Spirit of Photography

General Photography Discussions => Open Discussion => Topic started by: LarryMartin on June 26, 2008, 11:29:50 AM

Title: Air travel with photographic equipment
Post by: LarryMartin on June 26, 2008, 11:29:50 AM
Hi all!

I'd like to share with you a concern that has been bothering me as my interest in air travel for photography and acquiring more photographic equipment increases. A few years ago I travelled by air to various locations around the world - especially in the Third World - with a Pentax film SLR on my shoulder, a small, unobstrusive Olympus in a jacket pocket and a light tripod LOCKED in my suitcase. Air travel has changed. Security and cost of fuel issues have resulted in unlocked suitcases, intense scrutiny at check-in and stricter limits on carry-on equipment. (Don't even consider placing photographic equipment in an unlocked suitcase!) At the same time my photographic equipment has expanded. I would like to travel with my working dSLR (Canon 5D), a back-up dSLR body (Canon 20D), a telephoto lens, an smaller, unobtrusive prosumer camera
(Canon G9) with separate, wide angle and telephoto lens, a hefty tripod plus the various support equipment such as battery chargers, card readers, laptop, etc.

When I fly to a skiing destination, I have additional ski and ski boot bags for which I may be charged. It is reasonable to assume that there will much stricter limits placed on valuable photographic equipment carried aboard. I am resigning myself to carrying only the Canon G9 plus the two ancillary lenses on ski trips. Yet, not having at least one dSLR and tripod on a trip is a serious constraint to my photographic hobby.

How are you coping with these constraints? What are the professional photographers doing under these conditions? What can hobbyists do? I'm very interested in other views?


Title: Re: Air travel with photographic equipment
Post by: Cindy Miller Hopkins on June 26, 2008, 01:00:55 PM
Larry - I'm a full-time travel photographer for a living ... so I FEEL YOUR PAIN.  This year I'm out of the country over 150 days. FUN, but the flying part can be a big pain. I have found that I get along well in traveling all over the world with the following: Nikon D2x, Nikon D200, 2-3 extra lenses, Epson P5000 vewable hard drives x2, flash, chargers, CF cards, raincovers, etc. all packed in a Lowpro Mini-tracker back pack. It fits in all overhead bins (even most small planes) and under most seats. It can get pretty heavy ... between 25-35lbs (depending on lenses) so it's not light but compact. I also carry on a medium sized Mountainsmith fanny pack as my "personal item." It is large enough to carry personal items, tickets, snacks, and a few extra camera items along the way if needed. Once I get to my end location the Mountainsmith pack serves as my shooting day bag while I leave my packpack locked in the hotel, camp, etc. I have not had any problems with security around the world except a few who just want to look inside the backpack. Africa is the only place that's a problem. They have VERY light weight rules on both checked and carry-on. My last visit I just ended up buying my camera equipment a seat on the plane so that I could bring anything I wanted!

CMH Images

PS - When traveling with a tripod I normally take a lightweight (cheep) tripod that breaks down into short pieces and pack it into my checked bag. It has made it to and from about 8 trips now without any issues :)
Title: Re: Air travel with photographic equipment
Post by: LarryMartin on June 26, 2008, 03:12:52 PM
Cindy - I very much appreciate your practical information and advice. You have opened up some alternatives for me. My old light weight Slik Sprint tripod could return to use. If it disappeared from my checked suitcase that would not be a serious loss. Tripod rental at my destination may be an option in some instances.

I need to rethink my equipment travel and day packs. I have somehow collected an assortment of narrow purpose items over the past few years. Among my collection, only my Lowepro Slingshot 200 comes near offering much flexibility for air travel and in-the-field use. I will investigate the Mountainsmith fanny packs. They appear to offer good, distributed support along with low placed weight distribution (the latter is very important for me in mountain skiing).

Finally, your information places my own concerns in perspective. You photograph as a professional and must pursue your objectives despite the constraints. I photograph as an enthusiast and enjoy the freedom and flexibility that such entails. Perhaps it's more important that I just make sure that I have a camera - any camera - with me when I travel. Indeed, some of my most satisfying shots have been taken with my old Canon G3 and more recently my G9.

Title: Re: Air travel with photographic equipment
Post by: keithsnell on June 26, 2008, 04:52:45 PM

Rebecca, Evan and I are on the road (again) with limited internet access, so this response will be brief.

I second Cindy's recommendation on the Mountainsmith lumbar pack.  We use the Mountainsmith "Tour" lumbar pack.  It is large enough to carry the 5D and 24-105, plus flash and a few other essentials.  It is a VERY comfortable and convenient pack, and doesn't look like a camera bag, which is an added bonus when traveling in some locations.  (We've added a few "spare" sheets of padding from an old camera bag to better protect our camera in the event we drop the bag; however you may find the "stock" padding sufficient.)  The Mountainsmith is also small enough that it can count as a "personal" item when traveling via air, and typically doesn't count against your carryon allocation.

We also use the Lowepro MiniTrekker when size and weight are a constraint but we need to carry several additional lenses, etc.

I have a very old, lightweight and compact Velbron tripod that I take along when I really need to travel light.  It will strap on to the bottom of the Mountainsmith lumbar pack, which makes it convenient for extra long hikes, etc.  When used in conjunction with mirror lockup on the camera it provides sufficient support for sharp images.

Hope this helps,


Title: Re: Air travel with photographic equipment
Post by: Cindy Miller Hopkins on June 26, 2008, 07:27:50 PM

A little more on Mountainsmith bags ... Keith brings up a REALLY good point, they don't look like a camera bag so you can travel around without looking like you have $$$ camera equipment. I also really like that they are yellow inside so that you can FIND black lens caps, etc. They are really comfortable & I have hiked all over the world with mine and have always been very comfortable.

I have also really lightened my load by NOT traveling with a laptop. I know that most of my photo friends think I have lost my mind, but I just LOVE my 80GB Epson P5000 vewable hard drives. I'ts small, stable, reads RAW, and allowes me to download every night and edit my work, "rate", and even put into folders while on the road ... all without a computer.  It even lets me do slideshows for friends! By the time I get back home to my computer all my editing work is done. Downfall ...You can not add any captioning information, but I feel that it is a small price to pay for not having to take a computer everywhere.

I suggest you do take that old tripod out of storage - you can always use a "refillable" bean bag or even a zip lock bag filled with rocks to add some more weight to a light tripod to make it more stable. Sand, rice & beans are always available everywhere in the world and cheep to fill the bag up to add weight and them dump them before you go home.

You are 100% right about just going and having a good time. By all means take a nice camera, but don't fret over it! Some of my best shots were done while traveling VERY light ... one body ... one lens. When the equipment becomes a pain - so does the photography. The best shots are always taken with a happy eye, calm nerves, and with the love and joy of the process :)